First comes the conviction, next comes the sentence. Late last year I wrote about a Texas jury's decision to nail Tom DeLay (aka "the hammer") to the proverbial wall. The former leader of our nation's house of representatives was convicted of money laundering for illegally directing just shy of $200,000 in corporate political donations to candidates from the Texas State Legislature. DeLay could have been sent away on what some euphemistically call a "government sponsored vacation" for up to ninety-nine years. So with that view, three years doesn't look half bad.
DeLay, ever his own cheerleader, is appealing the conviction, maintaining his innocence, and claiming that the prosecution is politically motivated. Just prior to sentencing DeLay, Judge Pat Priest stated "Before there were Republicans and Democrats, there was America, and what America is about is the rule of law."
Though he was found guilty, the seeds of his illegal acts are still bearing fruits. The money DeLay funneled in 2002 to Texas state legislative candidates likely helped many of those candidates win, and hence for Republicans to take control of the Texas state legislature. Democrats had maintained control of the Texas legislature since reconstruction. In 2003, Republicans then redrew Congressional district lines to do something completely and wholly unsurprising--give them an edge in the next election. The controversial districting plan was successful, and in the next election, in 2004, Republicans bested five Democratic incumbents in Congressional races.
DeLay stated that "This criminalization of politics is very dangerous, very dangerous to our system." So too - assuming the conviction is a valid one - is the performing criminal acts for political gain. That too is hazardous. The acts DeLay was convicted of committing didn't merely help some of his favored candidates get elected, they robbed the voters of fair(er) elections, free from laundered money and dirty tricks.